Easter is a Christian celebration commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death. This holiday includes several symbols and traditions (not strictly faith-based) across the world.
Some traditions include hot cross buns, palm branches, Easter lilies and flowers, eggs, and the good old Easter bunny.
But why are rabbits associated with Easter? What’s the exact origin of the Easter bunny?
We know for a fact that the bunny has no symbolic representation in the Bible concerning the resurrection. Fortunately, this article aims to shed light on what the bunny has to do with the Easter holiday.
Why are rabbits associated with Easter?
The Easter bunny is a symbol of Easter, often depicted as a white rabbit with long ears, sometimes dressed in colorful human clothes, bringing Easter eggs.
What’s the origin of the Easter bunny?
According to Time, one theory is that the idea of this long-eared creature stemmed from early pagan traditions, especially the festival of Eostre. Eostre is the Germanic pagan goddess of dawn and fertility. Without a doubt, her name even sounds similar to Easter, but I digress.
This festival happens during spring to pay tribute to the renewal of the Earth and the rebirth of life after death in winter. This celebration was often symbolized by a hare or an egg, representing fertility (rabbits can become pregnant again within hours of giving birth) and new life, respectively.
As Christianity was established and spread throughout Europe, missionaries hoped to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The missionaries are believed to have merged this pagan festival with Easter since they occur around the same time. This enabled a smooth and easy transition for the new believers.
Introduced by German immigrants
The other theory is that the Easter bunny was first introduced to the U.S. by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania during the 1700s. They brought along their tradition of an egg-laying hare known as “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws”.
The rabbit was believed to lay colorful eggs as gifts to good kids (just like Santa during Christmas). So, the children would make nests where the rabbit could leave the eggs and even sometimes leave carrots for the magical rabbit to eat in case it was hungry.
Eventually, this tradition spread all over America. Over time, Easter baskets replaced the nests, and the bunny included other gifts such as candy, chocolate, and toys.
Why does the Easter bunny bring eggs?
The Easter bunny brings eggs as a reward to boys and girls who are well-behaved. But what do the eggs represent?
According to History.com, the eggs can be connected to early pagan traditions, and bunnies are thought to be the bearers of the said eggs. The eggs symbolize new life, rebirth, and fertility, all associated with the pagan celebrations—regeneration that comes with spring.
Decorating eggs may date back as far as the 13th century. During this time, the church prohibited eating eggs during Lent. Therefore, people would decorate them to mark the end of the period as they got ready to eat them during Easter.
From a Christian perspective, eggs are a symbol of resurrection. Just as a chick emerges from an eggshell, so did Christ emerge from the tomb.
Egg games such as egg rolls and hunts are popular in most households during Easter. For instance, the White House hosts its annual Easter Egg Roll, where children are invited to participate in various activities, including egg rolling and egg hunting.
There are different symbols and traditions to mark the Easter holiday. However, the Easter bunny remains popular throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Side note: All Christians do not follow the Easter bunny symbol, but it’s a big thing in the U.S.
We may never know exactly why rabbits are associated with Easter (whether pagans or Germans influenced it), but one thing is for sure, it’s a much-loved holiday tradition. Children find joy and excitement in the Easter bunny.